Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mad Love to You, Iyanla!

I don't know of many single black women who didn't read Iyanla Vanzant's books during the '90's. I think I have about every book she wrote, but I can't find all of them since I've moved about eight times since then. She taught us single black women that we didn't have to put up with no mess, that if we "saw crazy coming, cross the street," and that we were complete, whole and perfect in our singleness. She made us believe, each and every one of us, that "I'ma BE alright."

Needless to say, I was so sad to hear of all that she's gone through, which she's revealed in her latest tome, "Peace From Broken Pieces." I was absolutely glued to the TV screen watching her second interview with Oprah in which she described the loss of her marriage, her daughter, and her entire fortune. Like many of us in this new age, she's renting, living a simpler life, and she's at peace. Even in exposing the darkness through which she had to plow to get to where she is, she still remains a study in resilience. "I put my baby in the ground. I can do anything," she said. Indeed.

I was over the moon to see that her book is #1 on Amazon.com. Even more, I'm hoping that this woman who gave so much not just to black women, but to all women, will have all that love and good fortune directed back at her. I fully intend to buy her book because I know the royalties for this one, unlike her previous books, will indeed go to her. I appreciate that Tavis Smiley not only encouraged her to tell her story, but published it through his imprint, Smiley Books.

I firmly believe that one's testimony not only saves themselves but can save others. Ms. Vanzant has been to hell and back, and her testimony is that even if we end up experiencing the same, there is always a way back. Always.

Mad love to you, Iyanla!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just Out There Biebin'

I was overjoyed to see Esperanza Spaulding take home the Best New Artist Grammy. I was dismayed that her Wikipedia page was hacked the next day, most likely by a marauding bunch of 'tween Justin Bieber fans who probably can't afford to pay for the Internet access they used to accomplish their deed.

Thank heavens the music world isn't ruled by twelve year-olds.

In case you Bieber fans can't possibly comprehend how the Biebs lost out on that one, let me break it down for you: The Recording Academy is not a fan. And they've pretty much predicted that Spaulding has career staying power and Bieber doesn't.

I'm not saying the Recording Academy always gets it right. Past winners of the Best New Artist Grammy include the Starland Vocal Band, Bob Newhart, Marc Cohn and Milli Vanilli -- until it was discovered that neither Milli nor Vanilli actually sang on their records. Past losers include Leontyne Price, Kanye West, John Mayer, Jill Scott, Green Day, The Judds, and this year's big winners, Lady Antebellum. But when you look at the list of winners, the last teen sensation to take home the award appears to be The Beatles back in '65. But that was different -- they were, after all, The Beatles.

Justin Bieber is not The Beatles.

Long story short, teen idols don't get Best New Artist Grammies precisely because they are, well, teen idols. The world, and especially the Recording Academy, isn't ruled by twelve year-olds and their fickle and questionable taste in music.

Black Man Not Blogging doesn't usually weigh in on cultural stuff. He's too busy working. But this time, he spoke up.

"Esperanza Spaulding, that girl was playing the violin at 5, was concertmaster by 15, at the Berklee College of Music by 16, on their faculty by 20! Justin Bieber, well, that boy, he's just out there Biebin'."

There you have it, folks. Justin Bieber is just out there Biebin', and Black Man Not Blogging wishes he would stop. Real soon. Like yesterday.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Go Egypt! It's Your Birthday!

I am so happy for the Egyptian people and their new path to democracy. I am happy that they defined themselves and didn't let the media define them or their movement. I am happy that they are free.

Congratulations to the Egyptian people, or as we black folks say, "Go Egypt! It's Your Birthday!"

Because, in a way, it is.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The California State Baby Boomer Employee Ethos -- "Fuck You"

2011 may be the Year of the Rabbit, but in my family, 2013 is the "Year of the Retirement." In 2013, my older sister and oldest brother will both retire from their employment with the State of California. My brother will have over 40 years of service, my sister over 30. I think I can safely say that the workplace ethos for California state employees of their generation -- Baby Boomers who came of age in the '70's -- can be summed up in a Cee Lo Green song:

"Fuck you."

After years of enduring reorganization after reorganization, watching the incompetent rise to the top such that they ended up being "stupervised," receiving warrants instead of paychecks, dealing with furloughs, pay cuts, and threats to pension and health care benefits banked on more than 30 years ago, and surviving good and bad governors starting with and, ironically enough, ending with Jerry Brown, most California state workers of my brother and sister's generation have had enough. Despite being good at what they do and happy to do it, they no longer want to work in an environment in which state workers are considered to be a tiny step above Bernie Madoff and fair game for political gamesmanship, especially if there is no incremental benefit to their pension or other retirement benefits for continuing to hang in there.

In their minds, a deal's a deal. They came to work for the state when they were young, realizing that what they gave up in salary they balanced with job security and benefits, and they came to work and did what they were supposed to do to get what they were promised. Now, thirty-plus years in, the state wants to re-examine the deal. In their minds, and in the minds of many state workers with tons of service years, they're thinking, "Fuck you. I'll retire first."

And retire they have. Most large California state agencies have been having retirement parties almost every other week, I hear tell.

So, in 2013, my brother and my sister will retire from state service. Not stop working altogether, mind you, but retire from state service. Both of them intend to use the next phase of their lives to do something different and new.

Although they're not party types, I would love to give them a joint retirement party to celebrate their combined 70-plus years of service.

And the first song I'd have the deejay play?

You guessed it: "Fuck you."

Hear it here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What I Learned on Vacation

Yours truly took a little vacation for a while. It was the first time since BMNB and I bought our house that we took a trip together, so we were long overdue. I went in search of clarity, and I got it from some of the unlikeliest places. Maybe what I learned might be of use to you, so here goes:

1) Sleep is underrated. There's a reason they call it "beauty sleep" -- no sleep, no beauty. I was amazed at how much my skin's appearance improved just because I got more sleep.

2) Rejuvenation is underrated. Sometimes you really need to unplug and just let the world pass you by while you relax and rejuvenate. I didn't realize how much in need of rejuvenation I was until I had it. I returned to work more rested and more focused.

3) Sometimes you can't get the answers unless you become still and listen for them. I went searching for clarity on what to do next with my life and what to do about an increasingly iffy job situation. I wouldn't have gotten the answers I did had I not taken a break from my normal busy routine to stop, wait, and listen.

4) Water is underrated. Just increasing my water intake improved my energy level immensely.

5) Caffeine is overrated. I can't say I kicked caffeine completely to the curb, but I definitely decreased my intake and I noticed the difference. I'm not as hair-trigger as I had been and not so physically depleted when my day ends.

6) Turn off your T.V. You'd be surprised how much you won't miss it. I didn't watch television except for the news shows. Instead, I read. I didn't really miss it.

7) Fun is underrated. I'm really good at scheduling meetings and the like, but lousy at scheduling in fun. I didn't realize how much I missed doing something just for the fun of it without feeling guilty that I wasn't working on something or doing something for the benefit of my household. We all need fun. I rented "Easy A" this weekend for free (Thanks, Redbox!) and had a ball watching it, especially the references to John Hughes' movies of the '80's. I'm going to try to schedule in more fun, even if it means that other things don't get done. There will always be work to do. You gotta have fun.

8) Have a "bucket list." And don't wait until you're terminally ill to have one. I have one that I wrote when I was in college but I can't find it. I didn't realize how important it is to have one until recently when I was in a Starbucks and was chatting with a couple and their college-aged daughter about artists I never got to see perform live, like the Beatles (I was too young.) The daughter said I needed to see Cirque du Soleil's "Love," which is set to Beatles' tunes. "It was on my bucket list," she said. I told her she was too young to have a bucket list, but I later realized we all should have a bucket list of things we want to see, do, or be before we die. I was even able to cross one item off my bucket list on vacation. Without a bucket list, you'll never get around to doing things that are meaningful to you because you won't have the reminder that the list represents. I'm going to find the list I wrote back in college.

9) Walking is underrated. Instead of catching cabs or buses, I walked everywhere. It felt great! Plus, the weather was great. I didn't realize how much I missed sustained physical activity, even though my hips and butt hurt the next day. Even 30 minutes of walking a day will make a huge difference in your health.

10) Sometimes Kathie Lee Gifford has something wise to say. I was watching "Later Today," and there was a segment on turning your hobby into a paying gig. Kathie Lee Gifford passed on two pieces of advice she received from her father: 1) Figure out something you're passionate about, then figure out how to get paid doing it; and 2) If you put up with with you've been getting, you deserve what you've got. I'm definitely going to get to work on number 1. Who knew that Kathie Lee Gifford might have pearls of wisdom to share?

11) You have to pull back and get a different perspective. Having the distance and time away from all the things I've been involved in has given me a different perspective. I started to think of all the commitments I'd made and thought of how those commitments don't necessarily reflect my priorities for myself or my family. I need to adjust the time and energy I spend so that they're consonant with my priorities. I also realized that I've allowed certain folks to feel they have a right to my talents and my time. They don't.

12) Boundaries are crucial. People will sometimes cross your boundaries without malice -- they don't even know they're crossing a boundary. I've come to realize that I really value my independence and my privacy, and I will do a better job of protecting both down the line, even if doing so isn't what people might expect or isn't considered "nice."

Well, that's what I learned on vacation. If you've got some vacation wisdom to share, be sure to comment.

Oh, and Gung hay fat choy! (Happy Lunar New Year!).